The Glass Castle is a title that references her father Rex Walls' dream. He dreams of mining precious gold and using it to build said Glass Castle so his family can live like kings. That's the path he desires for his wife Rose Mary, and their four siblings, Jeannette, Lori and Brian. The title also references the delicateness of their family relationship as their father continuously gets in trouble at the places he works and has to have a life of fraud and stealing and running away. Not only that, but when they do have a little money, he tends to spend it all on booze and cigarettes. Their mom isn't the brightest either; she's a sugar addict and keeps things secret from her family, but damn if I wish I could see some of the paintings she's made. This is the story of Jeannette and her family growing up with that dream, with little or no food in their fridge, sometimes with and sometimes without warmth and electricity, and the "adventures" the Walls family endures to live an unforgettable life.
If you don't have a lot on your plate right now and you don't give yourself deadlines for books, you'll probably love this. If you want something easy to get through and makes your heart pound like all the books I've given four stars to, you'll probably hate it. But this non-fiction story is, it really is, memorable. I don't think I'm going to forget the endurance and sadness for quite a while. That being said, I like books that have a straightforward goal and this book is more like a sky of stars that make a constellation of...well, you don't know exactly. Of a beer bottle? Of New York City? Of a Glass Castle? Of growing up, whatever that would look like?
I don't usually like books that take place over as long as this book does, mostly because I don't have the capacity to write one that straightforward cuts months and years. The fiction books I write usually take a few days or one week. I'm planning to write a book that takes place five weeks, but you get my point.
If this were a fiction book, what I would've said was I wish there was a different title than The Glass Castle, or maybe it should've put more thought into it than it did. There are also numerous times there's outrageous behaviour, and, well, Jeannette Walls clearly remembers every time her mom and dad got into a very bad fight. Something that just made me go, "What?!" was at the start, when the family abandons their pet cat just at the snap of a finger and Jeannette seems to move on too fast, not to mention Jeannette gets thrown out of her car and her family doesn't notice for about twenty minutes. Like, what the hell?! How is that even possible? I almost want to call someone and find out. I also just wanted them to triumph and for their Dad to see his ways, especially after that tragic Christmas...Most of the book is made to make you feel sympathy.
Another little criticism is Dinitia, a character I grew to admire, and I couldn't help but wonder why Jeannette didn't think about her more instead of passing her off. That wouldn't have been good fiction writing, but once again, this isn't fiction. There's also a reveal at the end that the book didn't explore as much as it should've. Jeannette should've revealed more shocking thoughts around this idea. It was shocking, but I felt the book needed more words to properly convey the feelings she must have felt. And there are times where Jeannette's parents are in the hospital and they don't criticize it at all despite the fact that at the beginning when she was three and got burns, they broke her out because they didn't believe in needing one.
However, there are a few good things. One is that this book really toys around with your feelings around this family. I cared about Jeannette, Lori, Brian and Maureen almost like they were my own friends. How can you not when you have a father like Rex Walls? I had a half-admiration half-loathe feeling about their dad as this book went through. There are some things I agree and admire him on, like his thoughts on the zoo and a lion being shot just for being a lion (no, the lion didn't devour the lady that reported it) but these were minor compared to all the times I just wanted him locked up. I can understand the pressures and the fact Rose Mary loved her children, but geez louise! The mom also has some problems and simply refuses going on help that society offers because she wants to stay strong.
Oh, but one thing I admit I really liked was when Rex found out his "Mountain Goat" Jeannette made her own braces and he approved of them. When I was little and I had braces, before I got them on I wanted to make my own as well. The fact Jeannette went through with it and her dad approves is the positive thinking I wish people endorsed more often. And you know, the way they were living, it's just plain heartbreaking. There are people who still live like this family lived.
Basically, because this book takes place over a childhood, Jeannette Walls only has room to fit her most memorable memories in and not many stories behind all of the memories before it jumps to the next. The Glass Castle may as well be a giant scrapbook of a novel. Many tragedies happen in this book, and it ends with a rather celebratory conclusion, so I guess if you liked To Kill a Mockingbird and you want to read something that is real yet not forgettable, The Glass Castle is a good approach. Just don't expect to stay up late trying to finish it.